Manuscripts That Disappoint

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 28 2007

Great questions on my post on whether the publishing business is personal. You definitely know how to keep me writing.

Kris Fletcher, who always keeps me on my toes, asked which is harder to turn down, a book that I love but know isn’t marketable, or one that’s totally marketable but doesn’t sing for me. Until I wrote this post I wasn’t sure and thought it depended on the book; after finishing, though, I came up with my answer. . . .

This summer has been very, very busy for me. I’ve finally caught up on my submission reading (thanks in part to the interns) and read at least 10 full manuscript requests over the course of three months. Of those 10 I only offered on one. Some just really fell apart after the first few chapters, but two in particular stuck with me.

One was a mystery with a great hook and really fun characters. The writing was good, but not mind-blowing (which is fine). In the end, though, I had to pass since I didn’t think the mystery itself was strong enough. I was disappointed. I really feel that I could sell this book without much trouble at all, if she’s able to fix the mystery.

The second was a historical that was beautifully written. The characters were so well drawn you believed in them, the plot was interesting, and the writing, again, amazing. In the end, though, I wasn’t sure what the book was. The characters had some real flaws, things that made some of them too unlikable (characters you should have liked) and the plot never took off for me. Throughout most of the book I was left waiting for something to happen. And in the end I’m not sure where this book would have sold or who the audience would have been.

Which was the greater disappointment? The historical. I think that you can learn to plot and create characters, but voice is something that comes from within. I’m not convinced you can learn to become a beautiful writer. How do I say this? I think that beautiful people are born. We can all learn to make ourselves look really attractive, but true beauty is something you’re born with. Beauty, therefore, is a rare commodity, and when you read something that’s really written beautifully you want nothing more than the rest of the book to flow. When it doesn’t you’re naturally disappointed.

In both cases I finished the entire manuscript, even though I knew halfway through that it wasn’t going to work out, and in both cases I wrote letters explaining my decision to pass and giving suggestions on what I thought could be done to correct them. And of course I invited both authors to resubmit.

Now I’m going to turn this around to you. Which is harder to read, a book that’s amazingly written but weak on plot, or a book that has an amazing plot but the writing is weak?


62 responses to “Manuscripts That Disappoint”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’d pick the great plot and the weak writing (as long as the writing is decent and not so weak I can’t stand to read the book, that is 🙂 ).

    There are many books with breathtaking writing but no plot (Diana Gabaldon’s latest Outlander novel comes to mind, to mention one I read not too long ago.) These books bore me to tears and I won’t actually be enjoying the great writing, since I will be skimming the novel looing for some place where something actually happens.


  2. Avatar Chris Redding says:

    Plot absolutely.
    I prefer a good storyteller to a fantastic writer.
    Look at a lot of “literature” these days. I’ve read some for my book club and they prose has been beautiful, but there is no plot.
    Good language can only hold my attention for so long.
    Now a great plot can keep me going through so-so writing.

  3. Avatar Linda says:

    Without a doubt, a good story and good characterizations. As a writer, I used to nitpick the prose to death, analyzing mistakes and ended up not enjoying any books. Good prose doesn’t make a good book.

    In fact, one of my previous favorite writers (sadly, no longer) Luarell K. Hamilton drew me to her books because of wonderful characterizations and complex storylines. There was always a lot packed into each book, as well as a lot of surprises. But the prose itself was just okay. Then, about book seven, she lost something. The wonderful characterizations and plots disappeared, leaving me with a plot that filled only two chapters and nothing else happening for the rest of the book. I used to go buy the books immediately when they came out, and I ended up checking them out at the library instead and now no longer read them. Books are expensive, so there has to be a good reason for a reader to plunk down the money. Pretty writing isn’t enough.

  4. Avatar Robbie H says:

    When looking for a book, I’m looking for a narrator’s voice to fall in love with. Sometimes this means overlooking a sub-par plot, sometimes it means forgiving mediocre writing…but probably more of the former, since I think bad writing can out-shout a great voice.

    The biggest challenge for me, however, is trying to read any book for enjoyment while ignoring the editor’s voice within.

  5. Avatar Zany Mom says:

    Beautiful writing doesn’t do it for me. I need a compelling plot. I need to love the characters and care what happens to them. I need to know how it ends.

    If the prose is beautiful but nothing happens, I get antsy.

    Currently set aside a book that had so many ‘real time’ flashback scenes, that I’m six chapters in and nothing has really happened. Oh, I know just about everything that ever happened to the character since she was a kid, and all the maladies currently befalling her, but NOTHING has happened yet. I’ll pick it up again to see what the fuss was about, but though the prose is nice and the characterizations wonderful, NOTHING IS HAPPENING.

    I guess I’d better go jazz up my plots. 😉

  6. Hard question. I loved Gabaldon’s first book. It was basic time travel (which I love but rarely find a good one)and did a good job of taking us into the time period. Her later books didn’t seem to have that great a plot. It was like it was stretched too thin.
    So I guess I vote for plot. And I need to be hooked quick. However really weak writing has me stopping and wanting to do a rewrite. I’m not sure these things would jump out at me if I haven’t spent half my life studying writing.

  7. Avatar Kristin says:

    Amazing plot, weak writing is the worst…every single time. Because weak writing will make the plot seem not so amazing. But great writing can sometimes elevate a weak plot.

    Besides, I am way more into characters than plots. It is very hard to ‘wow’ me with a plot idea if there isn’t decent character development.

  8. Avatar Anonymous says:

    You don’t mention emotion or characterization as stellar in the beautifully written book, and that would be the deciding factor for me. If the emotional level was high, if I really *cared* about these people, then the plot really doesn’t matter and I’ll take the beautiful, character-driven story over the plot-filled mystery/suspense.

    On the other hand, if it’s just beautiful on the surface, then I’ll have the plot book, or I’ll just pass them both by.

  9. Avatar Kimber An says:

    Great plot, weak writing. I think in pictures. I can see the story in my head if the characters and plot our strong, but the prose is lacking.

    Kudos to you for extending the courtesy of explaining why you passed on these Fulls. I hope the authors thanked you from the bottom of their hearts!

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    First an admission: I watch Law and Order.

    I read a lot of thrillers because I enjoy them (and I am working on one), but only if they pull me into the moment with good writing. Laurie King’s writing does that for me, but another very famous thriller writer does not.

    I thought I should read something by the famous writer since he is touted on blogs that focus on thrillers. Boy, was I disappointed. The writing sounded as if it were geared for a moron. “The book sat on the table.” (Not an exact quote, but close enough to this guy’s idea of description.)

    Are you kidding me? I stopped after fifty pages and won’t be reading this author again. I need both an intricate, puzzling story that is entirely plausible and writing that paints a visual/auditory picture of the scene.

  11. Avatar Kate says:

    Hmmm.. great question!

    Two books I’ve read spring to mind. The first is Harry Potter. I thought the writing was nothing special, but the ideas and the plot were great. I put up with the not-so-good writing because I liked the plot and wanted to find out what happened next (and it also gave me a buzz to think that if JK Rowling could be published with writing like that, then I can too!).
    I love books by Terry Goodkind. The writing is fantastic. The plots are too.. except for the last two I read. The plot was spread really thinly and no matter how good the writing was I got bored reading one conversation that spanned 4 chapters. No matter how good the writing was, I needed something at the end to show for it all.

    I guess my answer is ‘Great Plot, Weak Writing’

  12. I guess it’s the English geek in me. I just can’t read things if they’re too badly written. With a weak plot, I may come out disappointed in the end, but I finish the book. With poor writing, it’s all over. I’ve put down books within pages because the writing turned me off.

    Now, if the writing is OK but not great, well, I read a lot of that. In that case, I will finish the book, but if the plot is also so-so, I won’t bother to pick up another book by the author. At least one has to hold me.

    The other thing is that while beautiful prose may mean different things to different people, bad plotting tends to be recognized by most people.

    I recently read a series mystery. I loved the first book by this author, liked the second one, I though the third was kind of weak, but this one was an absolute CLUNKER. Why? Her writing hasn’t changed (though her characters haven’t grown, which is a peeve of mine) but this entry had so little plot she was constantly hammering a few (sometimes totally irrelevant) points.

    Sadly, I won’t read any more of that series. But if she starts a new series, because her writing is entertaining, if she starts a new series I will give that a try!

  13. Interesting that the early voting is coming down on the “plot” side. Of course the plot should work, but for me, if the language is dry or awkward, I just can’t stick with the story to find out. There have been books by established authors that I couldn’t put down, and a day or two later I realized that some essential point had never been cleared up–and I didn’t care.

    And I think that the characters matter. No matter how brilliant the prose and the structure might be, if you can’t sympathize with the protagonist, at least on some level, what’s the point?


  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I no longer attempt to read literary novels unless they’re recommended. The writing may be beautiful, but since the plot is usually slight it’s like punishment or a school assignment. I read for entertainment, so no way am I going to work to read.

    I love mysteries and thrillers, so I’m a plot person. My reservation is that a lot of successful writers riff on the same plot, over and over. Probably due to series demand, but whatever happened to the good one book story? Authors used to write book after book, different characters. Allowed for more interesting stories, since they’d be constantly exploring new characters.
    I’m getting tired of milking the same characters long after they should be retired and the author allowed to move on.

  15. Avatar Anonymous says:

    For me “great writing” is writing that doesn’t make me stop and notice that I’m reading. If I find myself exclaiming, “What beautiful prose!” it’s a given that I’ve been pulled out of the story.

    A lot of award winning stuff violates this principle. It makes me wonder if the people who anoint the authors of this stuff really read for pleasure.

    OTOH, clumsy writing full of cliches and anachronistic language also pulls me out of the story and makes me aware that I’m reading.

    I love novels with competent writing that takes me into the environment being described and makes me feel like I’m there with the characters sharing their experiences.

  16. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Editorial Voice completely does it for me. I like a good plot, and well thought out characters. I don’t mind if I like or dislike the characters. IT’S VOICE that does it for me. That is something that no writing class, no workshop, nothing, can teach a writer. Like you say, it comes from within. An author with a way of phrasing things, a way of SINGING TO ME, her voice…man, that is awesome. Once I find that author, I will read ANY AND EVERYTHING by them. Sorry for the Caps. But, voice is something that distinguishes gifted writers from the others. They are the ones that will have rabid fans, and end up on one of the bestselling list. Some make the list that don’t have that special gift, of course. But truly, the ones with a gift for writing can not be mimicked.

  17. Avatar moonrat says:

    good writing it more important. no question.

    if the writing is good enough, the plot is negligible.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I used to read a lot of romance. No more. About five years ago book after book was a waste of time and money. I’d read a third of the way through, and it was enough. This was the time a lot of romance writers started writing romantic suspense. Most of them, including some big names, write trite suspense. Doesn’t work for me. Moved on to fantasy, which I love, and mystery.
    I also now read a lot more from the library. Prices of books are so high that I no longer want to risk an eight or nine dollar (on pb) or up to 35 dollar mistake on hardcover. I’m not alone. A friend recently returned a hardcover book to a bookstore because it was “a waste of time and an insult to the reader.” I don’t think that happens too often, but if it did, publishers might listen up.

  19. Avatar Tammie says:

    It has to be the Plot for me.

    I read literary books but it seems I’ve been disappointed more often in that area. A lot of times the endings fizz out. It’s the only type of book I’ve actually wanted to toss across the room.

    When plot and literary/beautiful writing are combined then its fantastic but it does seem to let you down if the plot doesn’t go anywhere.

  20. Avatar Precie says:

    For me, it’s a matter of what mood I’m in. I think the DaVinci Code was very weak in terms of writing, and yet I sped along to see what would happen next.

    On the other hand, my favorite novel of all time is George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I’m sure many people see as a quiet, even boring, book…I think it’s brilliant, and it’s all about the writing and the internal development of the characters.

    So, if we boil it down to dollars, I’d pay for breathtaking writing because I’d want to keep it in my home library. I wouldn’t spend the money on a novel with weak writing–I’d just borrow it from the public library.

  21. Avatar Timmy Mac says:

    I’ll take good writing over good plot any day of the week. I’ll read pretty much anything if the prose dazzles me.

  22. Avatar Alex Fayle says:

    I’m totally a plot-driven person, so I would pick a good plot over (slightly) weak writing. If the writing is just horrible, however, I wouldn’t be able to read it (I’m thinking DaVinci Code as an example of a supposedly good plot that had such weak writing – for me – that I couldn’t get past the first page).

    Selene, I totally agree with you on the Gabaldon books as an example of beautiful writing and weak plot. The later ones bored me to tears.

  23. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Wow. I’m stunned at all the commentors that want plot over writing.

    Like Anon 9:29 I want voice above all else, which I suppose leans toward “good writing.”

    If I don’t like the voice I wouldn’t want to walk down the street with the character, much less through a whole plot/journey.
    It’s the voice that stays with me, and makes me feel like the character is alive, and after the book is over I wonder what that character is doing right now. “Plot” books never make me wonder that.

  24. Avatar Siren Cristy says:

    Anon 9:20 said – My reservation is that a lot of successful writers riff on the same plot, over and over…
    I’m getting tired of milking the same characters long after they should be retired and the author allowed to move on.

    Blame that on the ‘big’ business of publishing. It’s much easier to market a known entity than it is a completely different work. Readers remember protagonists (jack ryan, anita blake, etc) more than they do authors.

  25. Avatar Anonymous says:


    Glad to hear I’m not alone–most people I know look at me with mixed pity and disbelief whenever I confess to being completely bored with Gabaldon’s later novels. 🙂


  26. Avatar Carrie says:

    First, thanks for sharing this. As a writer who is trying to get published and who has had some feedback on fulls, I think it’s great that you took the time to write something up and these authors them to resubmit. Kudos to you, Ms. Faust.

    Carrie N.

  27. Avatar 2readornot says:

    I would’ve thought a great plot, but after picking up a book lately that was everything I love about a plot…well, I couldn’t finish it. Not even close. The writing was so poor, so choppy in some places, wordy in others. It drove me crazy!

    Sometimes I can read beautiful writing simply for the enjoyment of that…but even a great plot can’t help the annoyance of poor writing!

  28. Avatar Sherri says:

    I can tolerate pretty bad writing if the plot is good enough. A previous poster used DVC as an example of bad writing, but I was mesmerized by the subject matter and fooled by the twists, so I guess it worked.

    It probably depends on what purpose the book is meant to fulfill.

  29. Avatar Alli says:

    I definitely prefer a terrific plot with not-so-great writing. I need the urge to turn pages, and plot driven books (usually!!) do that for me. I appreciate beautiful writing, but find my eyes tend to glaze over if it is pages of lovely description but no action.

  30. Avatar Anonymous says:

    It’s not the beautiful flowery writing that does it, that’s not what I meant when I said editorial voice does it for me. When I said Voice, and beautiful way of phrasing, I meant their writing sings to me. It MAKES me want to turn the pages. And again, voice is something that can’t be taught. it’s a gift. Good plotting can be taught. Character arcs and all that stuff, again, that can’t be taught. But someone with their own flavor, distinct and different, that writer will stand out in the crowd of authors and books crowding the bookshelves.

  31. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “Character arcs and all that stuff, again, that can’t be taught”

    sorry, meant Character arcs and all that stuff CAN be taught.

  32. Plot over writing.

    I have finished books that had terrible writing because the plot was good. I have set aside books that were skillfully written because nothing was happening.

    The writer has to keep the pages turning. Superficial prettiness is only good for a glance; deeper worth is what holds your fascination.

    Just as with people, pretty bimbos are only good for casual interest. People with substance are the ones you want to spend time with.

  33. Avatar jodi says:

    I want it all. Mechanical-average writing isn’t going to help a good plot, and beautiful writing–like LInda said about Hamilton (yeah, I feel the same way…) doesn’t save lack of a plot. Look at Kenyon. I used to love her stuff. She’s still a great writer. But…what happened to the Dark Hunters? She’s all over the place. I’m buying them used now when I used to rush out on release day.

    My personal op is that the historical writer can learn to fix her mistakes, and will take her voice with her and will become something special. IF someone will take the time to help her. Hell, she might be the next Nicole Jordan. BUT, I think the okay-writer will sell first. *sigh*

  34. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m definitely in the plot corner, with a big “however.” That is, when authors manipulate the plotline via pacing tricks that I can see!
    To feel manipulated through the book is the ultimate insult. And I won’t mention names, but the best example of this has his third book on the bestseller list in several months right now. So I am obviously in the minority.

  35. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I want a well-written book with a good plot. If the plot is a standard, I want a new take on that plot, not a shadow book.

    I don’t think publishers are interested in development any more than television is now. Back in the day, television shows were given a chance to find an audience. Without that shot, Cheers, Seinfeld, MASH and a number of shows that were huge hits and classics wouldn’t have made it.

    Publishers gave good writers that chance, too. No more.

    Now it’s all about hook, and niche, and finding an audience with the first and maybe a second book. After that, you’re gone, banished to the land of the next pseudonym.

    The problem with that for me is that I found a lot of authors I love mid-career, when they were peaking. I would then go back and buy all the previous books in paperback, and then buy new as they came out.

    I was speaking with someone I met at a party about books, and we were comparing notes. She took out a pad and wrote down some names I mentioned. “I like to find good authors who have several books out.” Me, too. When I find an author new to me, I want more immediately, which means a backlist. Very hard to wait to see if perhaps, maybe that author will get a second chance.

  36. Avatar JaxPop says:

    pnDefinitely plot with a crisp pace. I can tolerate marginal writing so long as it’s not dull or pointless. However, just finished a book (by a well known author now working with a co-writer) that actually listed all of the characters in the front (1st warning sign) describing who they were. The ‘story’ never made sense, as Evil Editor mentioned the other day – needed a scorecard to keep up with the names & their functions. It was filled with mind numbing data dumps & jumped all over the place with subplots to subplots that never tied together. When I got to the end, it felt like I had endured a 2 hour phone conversation with my mother in law. I don’t get her either.

  37. Avatar getitwritten_guy says:

    For me, its a combination of the plot and the characters. I’ve read books that had plot weaknesses but were still a good read because the author really did a great job of showing how their characters dealt with events over the course of a story.

    My favorite kind of story is one that mixes the external events with what I call the “inner landscape” of the main character. If an author manages both of these things well, it can enhance even a trite or predictable plot.

  38. I would have to say definitely plot – and I would limp along with weak writing, but if the writing was really bad, no plot could save it

    What surprises me is that many books seem to meet the criteria of weak plot/ good writing and still get published

    Many thanks for your feedback


  39. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a total snob, but I want both. My time to read is so precious to me that either weak writing or poor plot will force me to set the book aside. I just started JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and literally could not set the first two books aside. Beautifully drawn characters, terrific world building, strong plot–I can see why her stories sell so well. As expensive as books are now, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect quality storytelling, period.

  40. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Can I ask the commentators how you define plot, though?

    Because unless we’re all talking about very literary books where truly nothing happens, all books have plot. But all the comments are leading me to believe most people are talking about mystery, or thriller, suspense type books, and heck, yeah, they’d need a page turning plot. But for just regular, sort of non-genre stuff, the plots aren’t going to induce page turning breathlessness.

    I don’t need suspense to like a book, that’s why I commented earlier that I like Voice/writing.

  41. “Kris Fletcher, who always keeps me on my toes,”

    So, do I get to call you Twinkle Toes now?

    You gave us some very interesting examples, and it was intriguing to see how you answered the question. Thank you!

    I guess my answer would be that I need the plot over the writing. I can think of many times when I finished a book even though I hated many things about it (and myself, for being so sucked into it), just because I HAD to know how it turned out. But I can’t ever remember making myself continue reading a story I hated, simply because it was so well written.

  42. But all the comments are leading me to believe most people are talking about mystery, or thriller, suspense type books, and heck, yeah, they’d need a page turning plot.

    I don’t need suspense to like a book, that’s why I commented earlier that I like Voice/writing.

    I’m not talking about thrillers or suspense; I mostly read fantasy myself, which has a long tradition of producing rambling 400 page tomes.

    A plot can be a character fighting to save their loved one’s life. A plot can also be a characters’s very subtle quest to understand their own nature. A plot doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to keep me interested in finding out what happens next.

    If events in the novel simply happen, without any connection or purpose, that’s not engaging. Beautiful writing won’t make it engaging, either, at least not for long.

  43. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I too am a plot person. In the sense that something has to be happening, if it’s just well-written words, what’s the point? I could just pick up a dictionary and read words.

    And I like the poster who said the friend returned a book. I’ve often thought of that myself but receipt is long gone when I buy it and it sits waiting for me to read it. I keep saying I’m going to start doing that. Hate spending the kind of money they want for books these days only to find it was no better than sitting my cat in front of the computer and having him paw out something. But some publishers are all about making the money, not really getting any awards for publishing something great. Not even so great, just something entertaining, that’s all I’m looking for.

  44. Avatar Anonymous says:

    When I say Plot I mean a strong story. period. Doesn’t matter what the genre. I’ve read plenty of erotica/erotic romance where if you take out the sex, there is no story. Not knocking that at all, but for me, this is no longer enough. I want a story strong enough that with or without the sex, the story is still damn good. And yes, I am a woman who adores a distinct VOICE. One where you pick up the book, no matter what genre the author is writing, and you know her style! She (he) can be writing paranormal, suspense, contemporary, but the voice is so strong, it can be no other person but this author. UMMMM. Love that!! *happy sigh*

  45. Avatar Angie Fox says:

    That is such a hard question. For me, I think it depends on the book. Some books, if the writing is stellar enough, I’ll get so wrapped up in the characters that I’m right there with the author, no matter what. “Confederacy of Dunces” was like that for me. Still is. I’ll pick it up and read snippets here and there, just to revisit the characters.

    Other times, plot triumphs. I read a romantic suspense where I didn’t like the protagonist. She wasn’t very sympathetic and I couldn’t understand what the hero saw in her. BUT the plot was fresh (a paranormal twist on a stalker story) and I couldn’t put the book down.

    Reading is such a personal experience that there are no hard and set rules. That said, great writing and great plot will always triumph.

  46. Avatar Anne-Marie says:

    Tough question, but I will give the edge to a great plot over beautiful writing, and even qualify it by saying I have to care about the characters just as much as be interested in the storyline.
    That said, though, if the writing is painful, I won’t be able to continue either. If there’s no plot or action, the beautiful words won’t make me want to keep reading.

  47. Terrific question. I had to think over the books I’ve read to decide.

    Like Precie, “The DaVinci Code” helped my decision. The book was so poorly written, I put it down six or seven times before I got to page fifty. The last time, I picked it up, determined to read to at least page one hundred, and the plot caught me. I read the whole thing in about 24 hours after having failed to read more than the same fifty pages for six months.

    I just had to keep reading to see what would happen next.

    On the flip side, Pat Conroy could talk about the ingredients in cereal, and I would still read his books–just for the beauty of the prose.

    All in all though, I need plot to keep going.

  48. Avatar WordVixen says:

    This is easy for me. I will happily read any book with excellent writing and characters that I can love, with or without a plot. But bad writing, no matter how good the story, is painful to me to read.

  49. Avatar Karen says:

    I would definitely go with the good plot UNLESS the writing was so bad that it totally distracted me. I read a paragraph today from a yet-to-be-published novel from a quite famous author. (Her editor was having a problem with dashes). The paragraph was one, very long comma-ridden sentence. I read it three or four times, not because I couldn’t figure out where to put the dashes, but because I couldn’t understand the sentence. It kept flying up to the belfry of my brain and refusing to come down to be parsed.

    In that case no ammount of good plot would entice me to read the novel…just too hard.

  50. Avatar Phoenix says:

    I need them both. I may savor beautiful writing for a bit if there’s a weak plot. And I may flip through a story to get the plot gist if it’s engaging but the writing isn’t. Bottom line, though, I won’t read the entire book if it’s weak in either aspect.

  51. Avatar Lorra says:

    BookEnds – I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog every day; your posts are unique and informative and the commentors, at all stages of their writing careers, have been wonderfully supportive of one another, sharing their opinions and experiences without condescension when there are differing opinions.

    Reading the BookEnds blog, I feel a sense of community and I look foward to my daily visits with other writers. Thank You.

  52. I think I’d have to say beautiful writing wins out.

    I’ve been driven to keep reading a powerful plot, but beautiful writing is a different connection, one that hits me in the soul.

    Would I want 500 pages of yummy prose with no point…no…but I certainly wouldn’t enjoy 500 pages of plot without substance either.

  53. Amazing plot is definitely what I look for. Slow action bores me, so I skim a lot on many books anyhow.

  54. Avatar MG says:

    It’s without a doubt more difficult to read a book where the writing is weak. It’s the characters that will stick with you, haunt you for years, not a plot. And it’s beautiful writing that connects the reader with those characters.

    Plot schmot. Give me wonderful, prose-filled and rhythm swaying words any day over a twisty-turny story.

  55. Avatar Tammie says:

    To anonymous who asked if plot was thriller or mystery or what?

    I read mostly contemporary fiction. To me the plot is what is the story about – it doesnt have to be a mystery or a thriller, I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth Bergs stuff and it can be about a widow or a woman contemplating divorce.

    Like another poster here I too skim if it takes too many flowery words to describe something but thats just me. Now I consider John Irving to write literary and there are one or two of is I absolutely love – again no mystery or thriller but there are also some of his I just want to yell – GET TO THE POINT.

    But that’s just me and thats what makes books exciting, sometimes you dont know until you crack it open and it is what makes selling a manuscript sometimes maddening.

  56. Avatar Travis Erwin says:

    You left out characters, which to me are the most important.

    Good writing only takes me so far if I do not care about those that the story is about.

    And a plot without interesting people to drive it means nothing to me.

    But If I am engaged by, care about, hate, or have some feeling for the characters I will read on to the bitter end to see what becomes of them. Some I root for, others against, but for me fiction is all about the depth and level of characters.

  57. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Celia 10:14- From those of us who are actually writers – we’re absolutely thrilled that you think this blog is “really good written” – But then, what else would we expect from a SPAMMER!

    I think I speak for everyone when I say: Go Away! GO VERY, VERY FAR AWAY!!!! But for the respect that I have for this blog, I would have used much stronger language!

  58. Avatar Anonymous says:

    With historicals, I need to love your voice more than the plot. For mysteries and contemporaries, the plot.

  59. Avatar April says:

    amazing plot, weak writing, as long as the writing isn’t terrible!

  60. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’ll take fascinating, memorable, interesting characters over great plot OR great writing.

    That said, fantastic writing isn’t going to save a crappy plot with boring characters. However, I will overlook mediocre writing if I am into the story and characters.

    I recently read a very popular YA novel (first in a series) and only finished it because I thought surely, SURELY something was coming that was making everyone rave so much. It was slow, boring, unoriginal and written almost entirely in passive voice with annoying adverb infested dialogue tags even JK Rowling (bless her!) would be ashamed of. The characters were totally blah. If the main character hadn’t been such a dish rag (to me, anyway)I would have been willing to overlook the rest.

    JK Rowling on the other hand… Love her, love her, love her. She’s not the greatest writer ever, but I lost a week of my life when I finally read Harry Potter.

  61. Avatar Anonymous says:

    The voice must be strong & the writing beautiful. Weak writing, no matter how strong the plot, makes it difficult for me to finish the book.

  62. Avatar Alyssa says:

    Every time, I'll pass on the weak writing. I just truly get off on words, and experiencing something beautiful. Plot can be taught; gorgeous writing cannot. I would much rather revel in something gorgeously written than zip through a formulaic story which is theoretically good but doesn't come alive.